Detroit Tigers fans everywhere rejoiced today as Justin Verlander, the autumnal god himself, returned to the mound for just his second simulated start of the year. Having already tormented the Tigers with a night flight to Oakland for a day game, another scheduling debacle from the clowns at MLB headquarters had first pitch set for 2:00pm on west coast time. It had not the slightest effect on Verlander as he embarrassed a mixed lineup of Tigers and ghosts (but not Goses), needing just 70 pitches to complete a simulated shutout.
Verlander came out on fire, twirling an easy 1-2-3 inning on just 12 pitches. His fastball was, by all reports, fast. His breaking balls are said to have consistently broken things. So impressive was the stuff on display that the wave spontaneously erupted among the less than capacity crowd.
Just as the excitement reached a fever pitch to begin the second inning, Verlander's no-hit bid was broken up in classic fashion by Dixon Machado, who singled up the middle for his first career simulated big league hit. Verlander was visibly frustrated by a delay in the game, as he was forced to wait for the ball to be retrieved for Machado. Verlander proceeded to walk power-hitting lefty Tyler Collins, leaving him in a dangerous situation with ghost runners on first and second with no outs. From the stands, Tigers' reliever Joba Chamberlain watched anxiously as he made ready to enter the game. But by the time Joba had taken off his paper hat and set down the load of hot dogs he'd taken it upon himself to vend to the lunchtime patrons, Verlander had mowed down three consecutive batters, stranding those shades of the underworld at second and third to preserve the shutout.
With his pitch count rising to 39 through two, hopes of a strong outing to preserve the Tigers' bullpen seemed slim indeed. But this is Justin Verlander, kids. From that point on, Verlander showed the grit and competitive fire Tiger fans love him for. Verlander repeatedly refused to come out of the game, demanding the ball for batter after batter over two more innings. Pitching deep into the fourth and well over 60 pitches, Verlander lobbied for one more hitter from beleaguered Tigers' manager Brad Ausmus, and struck out his eighth of the day to finish a dazzling outing in high style.
Once again, the vaunted Tigers' offense was asleep at the wheel. They were shut out on consecutive days for the first time this season. Their effort was feeble, mustering just two hits and a walk, while striking out a combined eight times. They managed to avoid hitting into a single double-play, but that task was made much simpler due to the near absence of ghost-runners. Noted slugger Hernan Perez was set down with ease repeatedly. While elite shortstop prospect Dixon Machado did record a single, he too was over-matched, striking out multiple times. Some took issue with home plate umpire Jeff Jones' simulated strikezone, though most others in attendance found no discernible difference between a simulated strike zone and a real one. As Bryan Holaday said after struggling with vintage Verlander stuff all day, "Sometimes you've just got to tip your cap."
There is no word yet from Ausmus on when Verlander will make his next start. Verlander reported feeling great after a meager 70 pitch outing, and could doubtless have thrown somewhere in the neighborhood of 160 more pitches by the look of him after the game. He barely broke a sweat out there. Some have speculated that he'll instead be sent to Toledo for some kind of "rehab start." However, based on their performance the past two days, it's the Tigers' offense that looked in need of rehab.
Justin Verlander: Making mock of the hand-wringing wimps among the Tiger fanbase, Verlander re-captured all the glory of old today. His line: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 8 SO. His simulated strikeout rate currently stands at an astounding 18.0.
The Tigers' Offense: It's barely worth mentioning these guys by name except to spite their futility. Ausmus' getaway day lineup of Bryan Holaday, Tyler Collins, Hernan Perez and Dixon Machado couldn't muster much of a threat to the likes of Justin Verlander.
Brad Ausmus: Despite a better ratio of left-and-right-handed bats, Ausmus continues to waste games while better options like Miguel Cabrera ride the pine.
Big Ver back on the bump!!! 3 ip 2 hits 0 runs 1BB 6ks...worked out of a 1st and 3rd 1 out jam with w K and F8 pic.twitter.com/fhLRJobF0O
— David Price (@DAVIDprice14) May 26, 2015
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— anthony fenech (@anthonyfenech) May 26, 2015
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